Special Issue - The Transdisciplinary Imperative: Perspectives from the Next Generation of Language Scientists of Bilingualism


The Transdisciplinary Imperative: Perspectives from the Next Generation of Language Scientists of Bilingualism

Guest editors:

Anne L. Beatty-Martínez (McGill University, Canada)
Sarah Surrain (University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, USA)

Most of the world’s population uses more than one language in daily life. Yet, it was not until recently that the study of bilingualism emerged as a scientific enterprise. The dominant assumption underlying much of this research has been that of an ideal and uniform speaker, where individual idiosyncrasies are discarded as potential sources of noise. Far from being monolithic, bilingualism is a complex life experience that takes different forms in different contexts worldwide. A comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon thus requires a framework for characterizing such complexity and an emphasis on asking non-binary questions that enable the exploration of variety (DeLuca et al. 2020; Dussias et al., 2019; Luk & Bialystok, 2013; Zirnstein et al. 2019). As a field, we are in the early stages of understanding the precise aspects of bilingual language experience that give rise to different trajectories and outcomes. Notwithstanding, collaborative research networks that exploit the features of different interactional experiences offer exciting prospects for new scientific discoveries (Bak, 2016; Kroll et al., 2018). The aim of this special issue is to bring together the next generation of language scientists who engage in transdisciplinary collaboration and whose research questions entail new paradigms for theoretical complexity and methodological diversity. The invited contributions, which take the form of theoretical, applied, or position papers, address current issues in bilingualism relating to the following key aspects:

  • language diversity as an evolutionary and ecological process
  • bilingual language experience and its relation to neuroplasticity and/or cognitive performance
  • integration of quantitative (e.g., corpus, computational), and qualitative (e.g., ethnography, field/case studies) approaches to inform experimental research and/or education policy  
  • exploration of boundary conditions for linguistic and/or cognitive consequences of bilingualism

Keywords: bilingualism, linguistic diversity, language control, individual differences, interactional context, behavioral ecology

Bak, T.H. (2016). Cooking pasta in La Paz. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 6, 699–717.

DeLuca, V., Segaert, K., Mazaheri, A., & Krott, A. (2020). Understanding bilingual brain function and structure changes? U Bet! A unified bilingual experience trajectory model. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 56, 100930. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneuroling.2020.100930

Dussias, P. E., Valdés Kroff, J. R., Beatty-Martínez, A. L., & Johns, M. A. (2019). What language experience tells us about cognition: Variable input and interactional contexts affect bilingual sentence processing. In J. W. Schwieter & M. Paradis (Eds.), The Handbook of the Neuroscience of Multilingualism (pp. 467–484). John Wiley & Sons Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119387725.ch23

Kroll, J. F., Dussias, P. E., & Bajo, M. T. (2018). Language use across international contexts: Shaping the minds of L2 speakers. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 38, 60–79. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0267190518000119

Luk, G., & Bialystok, E. (2013). Bilingualism is not a categorical variable: Interaction between language proficiency and usage. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 605–621. https://doi.org/10.1080/20445911.2013.795574

Zirnstein, M., Bice, B., & Kroll, J. (2019). Variation in language experience shapes the consequences of bilingualism. In I.A. Sekerina, L. Spradlin, & V.V. Valian (Eds.), Bilingualism, Executive Function, and Beyond: Questions and Insights [Studies in Bilingualism, 57] (pp. 35-47). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1075/sibil.57.03zir